English Cricket Takes Its ‘Leap of Faith’
ECB Chief Executive Office Tom Harrison used the term ‘leap of faith’ a little too often for some people’s liking when discussing the proposed changes to English domestic cricket during the past 18+ months.
Many were far from convinced the creation of a new T20 ‘super league’, based around city franchises, was right for the English game. But none the less Harrison, and the ECB, now have the green light to change the constitution and create this new tournament.
It has been controversial from the start. It remains controversial, with hours of audio and miles worth of column inches filled discussing the subject.
But in a sort of ‘shout out’ to 2016, we are where we are now and cricket fansmust now face up to a new path ahead of them.
Significant questions still remain regarding the new tournament. Significant concerns too, even after 38 of the 41 parties which voted on Wednesday decided to get behind this bold new proposal.
The financial future of the game has been an enormous driver of this proposal, but it is notable that on the day the ECB got their way, and with it the chance to seek a new TV deal ‘potentially worth more than £1bn’, Cricket Australia risks losing one of the longest standing broadcast partnerships in cricket.
Undoubtedly the £1.3 million carrot the ECB dangled in front of the 18 first class counties would have been seen as a significant sweetener to many (if not all), and 15 of the 18 ultimately backed the proposal – with even naysayers Surrey voting in favour of the change when it came to the crunch – but there is a fear this represents some kind of short term thinking.
2020 is still three years away, the T20 market place is perhaps already saturated with the T20 Blast accompanied by prominent leagues in India, West Indies and Australia whilst Pakistan and Hong Kong also host tournaments now.
How much T20 can one audience take?
How too will the new English T20 fair against the Olympics, Premier League football et al?
What does this mean for the T20 Blast? Legitimately there are concerns the new tournament will lead to the end of the Blast, much to some fans chagrin.
Equally the effect it may have on the Royal London One Day Cup – which may be insulated somewhat because of the major international 50 over competitions – and the County Championship remains shrouded in mystery.
So many questions, so few answers – ‘potentially’ has been a word banded about with almost alarming regularity.
A TV deal potentially worth X, a fan base potentially of Y. The cricketing hand ringing which has existed since Test cricket was in its infancy more than 100 years ago continues to this day.
The ECB got its ‘leap of faith’, perhaps at the expense of some existing fans, now they must prove this wasn’t a plan conceived in a haze of BBL and IPL induced euphoria but one with real substance which will ensure England’s cricketing future for years to come.